Houthi rebels strike UK petroleum vessel in Aden Gulf, Indian Marine reacts to SOS signal

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British Oil Tanker Targeted by Houthi Militants in the Gulf of Aden

A British oil tanker, christened MV Marlin Luanda, was targeted by Houthi militants in the Gulf of Aden. Information released by the US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed the tanker was hit by an anti-ship ballistic missile on the evening of January 26.

Emergency Response to the Attack

In response to the distress call, the Indian Navy dispatched a team from its guided missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam to assist in firefighting efforts aboard the Marlin Luanda, an oil tanker owned by Trafigura, a London-based commodities group.

Having battled the blaze for a total of six hours, the Indian Naval firefighting team, along with the crew of the Marlin Luanda, were able to gain control over the fire.

The crew aboard the tanker, which was on its way from Laconian Gulf in Greece to Singapore carrying Russian naphtha, included 22 Indian and one Bangladeshi nationals.

The missile attack is believed to be the handiwork of an Iran-backed group with a history of targeting merchant vessels. This unsettling trend on a key global trade route is considered by the group as retaliation against Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

The Aftermath of the Attack

The fiery attack left the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker ablaze for several hours. In the early hours of Saturday, a firefighting team from INS Visakhapatnam stepped aboard the vessel at the request of the tanker’s master.

The NBCD (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Damage Control) team of the Indian Navy were also equipped with firefighting equipment and charged with aiding the crew in augmenting firefighting efforts.

About 12 warships of the Indian Navy are currently stationed in the Arabian Sea alongside the Gulf of Aden, all geared toward anti-piracy and maritime security operations.

Company Statements and Further Information

Trafigura, the London-based company that owns the oil tanker, confirmed on Saturday afternoon that the fire on board had been fully extinguished and that all crew members were safe.

In a statement, Trafigura expressed gratitude towards the ship’s master and crew as well as the Indian, United States, and French Navy vessels for their exceptional dedication and bravery. The company also confirmed that no other Trafigura vessel is currently transiting the Gulf of Aden in light of the assessment of risk to the safety and security of the crew members.

The Attack and the Attributed Responsibility

The US CENTCOM revealed earlier that the Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen launched the anti-ship ballistic missile which caused damage to the oil tanker. Following the attack, a distress call was issued by the ship and assistance was provided by the USS Carney along with other coalition ships.

The Houthi militants claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that they used precise naval missiles and the strike was direct. This attack follows closely on the heels of the joint strikes launched on Houthi targets in Yemen by the US and UK-led coalition earlier in January, aimed at inhibiting their capabilities.

The assault on the MV Marlin Luanda was predestined as the US CENTCOM had destroyed a Houthi anti-ship missile earlier that was aimed at the Red Sea and posed an imminent threat to the peace in the region.

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